Woman ‘fed cat food’ claim

Midweek Herald ‘Who cares?’ campaign

A WOMAN who visited her elderly mother in Honiton allegedly found a care worker feeding her cat food – just one of the shocking claims made during the Midweek Herald’s Who cares? campaign.

When the disgusted woman reprimanded the care worker, she is alleged to have replied: “Well, it is good enough for cats.”

Numerous allegations of theft were also reported to the Midweek Herald and today we appeal to those people, who would not give their names, to contact their local police station.

We have outlined some of the complaints to detectives at Honiton CID as well as uniformed officers.

A recurring complaint was that care workers are helping themselves to clients’ food. This is theft. Cash, jewellery and even a car were also reported to have been stolen.

The vast majority of complaints came from private clients, who felt they were being short-changed.

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They believed the service they were receiving was unreliable and sometimes rushed.

Meanwhile, clients covered by Devon County Council contracts were benefiting from a newly-introduced monitoring system. The system logs home visits from start to finish, so the council can determine if a care worker has turned up and, if so, how long they were in the property.

A major concern among private clients, and carers themselves, is that not all agencies include travelling times between appointments in staff schedules and, even if they do, may not pay staff for the time. This can lead to rushed visits and tasks not being completed.

The Midweek Herald was concerned to discover that Care Quality Commission inspections sometimes give agencies, which are private businesses, wide windows of opportunity to influence outcomes.

For example, part of the inspection process involves agencies distributing questionnaires to staff and clients – an exercise that could be manipulated.

Care staff told the Midweek Herald that point-of-service inspections regularly saw inspectors paired up with “the best carer” and taken to “the little old lady who never complains”.

We want the inspection procedure tweaked, at no extra cost to taxpayers, to ensure the process is robust and free from undue influence. After all, it is a service industry that deals with the vulnerable in their homes.

Furthermore, we want a charter for private clients – to ensure the services they receive are as reliable and at least the same standard as those covered by council contracts.

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish has already written to the Care Quality Commission to highlight some of the issues raised by readers.

We are to meet him again shortly – to discuss the wider issues raised during the campaign and possible solutions.

The Care Quality Commission has stayed in touch with the Midweek Herald throughout the campaign and has noted all the major issues raised.

The Midweek Herald intends to invite the 87-year-old original complainant, who sparked the campaign, to attend the private meeting with Mr Parish.

We would like to thank all those who participated in the campaign, including the agencies featured who answered all our questions in full.